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Dubai will be with you soon, darling. She’s just getting her nails and hair done for the VIP poolside dinner tonight. Bring on the champagne… this is holidaying at its most fabulous!
From the outside, Dubai (although its citizens may disagree) is a bit like a drag show – impressive, indulgent, over the top and a little hard to believe. Look at the Burj Khalifa – the world’s tallest building, or the Nad al-Sheba Club, where the global elite flock to have a punt. But take the time to peel away the layers and you’re left with something rather sweet and beautiful.
Located south of the Persian Gulf, Dubai really is the ultimate place to be pampered. Indulge in luxury from now till Sunday at a handful of five-star (and above!) resorts such as Atlantic The Palm. Lie on the sun-drenched coastline and soak up VIP treatment that’s winning hearts as we speak.
Dubai is a manmade wonder that really is nothing short of unique. With record-breaking buildings (the Burj al-Arab could house the Statue of Liberty in its lobby!) popping up every minute, Dubai is making its mark on the world stage.
The sensual assault starts with the Dubai Shopping Festival and tones it down a notch for the Camel Markets. Either way you’re sure to go a little weak at the knees. Deep breaths. You can handle this.
Dubai’s Top 10
10. Ras al-Khor Wildlife Sanctuary A zoo in the middle of the city? Love the pink flamingos! Darling, it’s so you!
5. Dubai Museum Built in the 18th Century, the museum gives a glimpse into life before the city splashed its five-stars over everything!
9. Lost ChambersGet lost in a labyrinth of fish tanks and 65,000 species of marine life surrounding the 11 million-litre Ambassador Lagoon.
4. Dubai Aquarium & Underwater ZooPeak for free from outside or pay to scour the tunnels inside.
8. Camel Market Immerse yourself in Arabic culture and try your luck at some haggling.
3. Burj Khalifa The world’s tallest building. You can’t miss it – literally!
7. Madinat JumeirahThe city within a city. Shopping, entertainment and architecture.
2. Ski Dubai Snow ParkTwo words: ‘indoor skiing’!
6. Jumeriah MosqueThe only mosque that non-Muslims can enter. The cultural side of Dubai shines through.
1. Nad al-Sheba ClubHost to world’s richest horserace. Cosy up to locals or get boozing with an array of comfy ex-pats.
- Jumeriah Mosque – The largest mosque in Dubai is an example of fine Islamic architecture.
- Heritage Village – Located in the Shindagha district, the open museums provide insight into Dubai’s heritage.
- Bastakiya District – Home to many traditional buildings.
- Al Ahmadiya School – An old school building constructed in 1912.
- Sheikh Saeed Al Maktoum House – The former home of Shaikh Saeed, the grandfather of Dubai’s present ruler.
Dubai Art & Culture
- Dubai Museum – This fascinating museum provides an insight into the social history of Dubai.
- The Dubai Fountain – A 270m-high fountain capable of shooting water up 150 metres.
- Burj Khalifa – The world’s tallest structure. Visit the observation desk on the 124th floor for magnificent views.
- ArtSpace Dubai – A gallery promoting international and national contemporary artwork.
- Original and Unique Art Gallery – A gallery exhibiting European and North American artwork.
- The Dubai Mall – The largest mall in Dubai and home to over 1,200 international brand name stores.
- Mercato – A Renaissance-themed shopping mall that offers a unique shopping experience.
- Town Centre Jumeirah – A spacious venue in which to shop, relax and dine.
- Mall of the Emirates – Home to over 200 shops, including many international high-street stores and luxury-brand shops.
- Wafi Mall – This mall focuses almost exclusively on luxury-brand stores.
Gay & Lesbian Dubai
- Barasti Bar - Located on Dubai Marina, the bar is situated on a large jetty and provides views of the surrounding coast.
- Buddha Bar - An immensely popular upscale bar.
- Skyview Bar - A part of the seven-star Burj Hotel, this bar serves up new drinks created by expert bartenders.
- Serai Nightclub – Located at the Dubai Marine Beach Resort, this club is open seven days a week.
- Keva Nightclub – This nightclub allows tourists and locals to party into the early hours.
- Safa Park – One of the oldest parks in Dubai.
- Camel Race Track – Watch the camel races held here on Thursdays and Fridays during winter.
- Dubai Creek Cruise – Take a boat ride on Dubai creek, a former port for trading vessels.
- Global Village – An annual event in which sellers from countries across the globe come together and set up stalls from the end of November to February.
- Dubai Zoo – An outdoor zoo located near the beach.
- Watch talented skiers on the slopes of Ski, the ski centre located in the Mall of the Emirates.
- Catch the Dubai Sevens, an annual rugby union sevens tournament held at The Sevens stadium.
- Enjoy horse racing at the Meydan Racecourse, which is also home to a horse racing museum and gallery.
- Experience the thrill of an Al-Wasl Football Club match at the Zabeel Stadium.
- Watch the cricket at the DSC Cricket Stadium.
Given the oppressive summer heat in Dubai, you may feel like you just want to lie in the air-conditioning and have the bar staff feed you grapes. But venture out and you’ll see some things you’ve only dreamt about.
The Palm Islands
Considered the eighth wonder of the world, these manmade islands are a must-see. If you’re not staying at Atlantis, take a helicopter flight or a hot air balloon ride to see these amazing islands from above. It’s all very well sitting on Google Earth, but there’s nothing like sitting in a helicopter looking down at most perfectly constructed artificial palm tree in the world.
The islands are set to house the world’s best hotels, leisure centres, theme parks and entertainment areas. Can’t wait!
Also known as Dubai Heritage Village, Hatta is built around an historic village and its oasis. Explore the palm leaf and mud houses and take in the views from the Central Tower overlooking Dubai.
After a quick coffee break, tour guides will fill you in on the pearl diving traditions and historical architectural features. The two towers outside were built in the 1800s to protect Dubai from attack. Compared to the towers in the modern city, they’re more like bungalows today!
Situated at the mouth of Deira Creek, Hatta Village is a short distance from major cities and captures the old heart and tradition that is sometimes lost beneath the cosmopolitan urban sparkle.
Only 25 minutes outside the city centre, Jumeirah Beach is home to the world famous seven-star Burj Al Arab hotel. If you’re a little stretched for cash, you can still visit the hotel without staying over. Phew! There’s plenty of other accommodation alternatives available, including the five-star the Jumeirah Beach Hotel Dubai if you don’t mind slumming it!
The beach is a few kilometres long but not too crowded and you’re welcome to cook up a barbecue on the shore. It will be hot, though, so visit the Wild Wadi Water Park and cool down on its 30-plus rides.
Deira City Centre
On your marks… get set… go!
Deira City Centre is comprised of 115,000 square metres of retail space and features over 370 retail stores. Packed inside is Bowling City, 5-star City Centre Hotel & Residence, CineStar Cinemas, restaurants and bars, as well as the MAF Tower.
If you can’t control yourself, it’s best you leave the credit cards at home. And if you’re desperate to avoid all the shopping, take some time out to see Deira Clocktower.
‘Desert’ doesn’t automatically scream things to do and see. But, actually, it can make for a fascinating and fin-filled day out. Take a Safari Tour or hire your own vehicle and drive over never-ending dunes at alarming 45-degree angles. Stick a dune board in the back for some serious sand surfin’! Some companies offer the whole desert experience – camel rides, camping, belly-dancing and dinner. So when you’re sick and tired of room service and a hot shower, try your luck at a bit of off-roading.
Dubai Eat & Drink
Variety is the culinary spice of life in Dubai. There are lots of little places to eat and drink at, some with all the glitz and glamour you’d expect, and some quiet steals for the modest traveller.
Ravi The five-star experience without the five-star bill. Pakistani food at its best. Sit outside and watch the streets.
SumibiyaThis one may take some saving for, but it’s the best Japanese in Dubai.
Vu Slip into something uncomfortable for this one. Super classy but worth it for the views.
Maria Bonita’s Taco ShopCoat your mouth in wax and prepare to be smoked to death! Wash it down with an ice-cold beer.
Bombay It’s a bit of trek outside the city, but a proper curry and nice cold beer are the rewards.
Coconut Grove:More curries! More views! How can you go wrong? Sit by the window.
Thai Chi Two kitchens. Two cuisines. Choose Thai or Chinese in this unique blended restaurant.
Afghan Kebab House Drooling with the memory of foot-long slabs of meat stuffed in bread. Eat with your hands..
Basta Art Café A little charmer for a quiet sit down.
Yum Everyone loves noodles. Slurp and splash your way through a massive bowl full.
January brings with it the famous Dubai Shopping Festival.The event includes theatre and street performances, fashion shows, nightly fireworks and laser shows, prize draws and film festivals.
Standard Chartered Dubai Marathon draws runners from all over the world. Nestle in beside famous landmarks as they sprint through the city centre in January. Then shake your head in disbelief that people willingly put themselves through that.
Running concurrently with Art Dubai, ArtBus offers art tours to Al Quoz, Al Bastakiya and other artistic areas around the city during March.
The UAE Desert Challenge begins in Abu Dhabi during March and continues through April as competitors race all manner of machines through the desert.
Dubai Summer Surprises is June’s answer to the Shopping Festival. Pack your credit card and head for some savings.
As August comes around, so too does Ramadan in Dubai.All consumption for pleasure is prohibited between dawn and dusk, but after 30 days the city celebrates!
September brings with it the Eid al-Fitr, the break of the fast and celebration of the new moon.
National Day Festival in December sees camel rides, performances and parachuting!
What To Miss
Be sure not to offend, especially at the beach. Avoid wearing anything super skimpy and never sunbathe topless! Also, PDA (public displays of affection) are frowned upon in Dubai, so keep it chaste.
Be sure to time your toilet breaks. There is a distinct lack of public bathrooms. Either hold on tight or buy something in a bar to use theirs.
Ask around about taxi prices and carry small notes. For a rip-off-free experience, taking the bus is recommended!
When To Go
Dubai’s climate is semi-tropical, arid and almost unrelentingly sunny. Any rain falls in winter and always seems to catch the city by surprise, with flash flooding often occurring around oases.
At the height of summer (July and August), the temperatures can soar to 49°C (120°F). Even the sea temperature gets up to 37°C (100°F), so spending time outside is best kept to a minimum. The swimming pools though are cooled and wonderful!
October to April is the best time to visit in terms of manageable temperatures, but sandstorms are common in March and April.
Public transport is cheap and popular and ideal if you’re on a budget. Although not as good as in other cities, it will still get you around if you’re patient. We can’t all afford helicopters from here to breakfast!
Buses. Like everything in Dubai, even the buses are custom-built. Buy an e-swipe card for a discount or buy a ticket each time.
Taxis. If you want to add to the already insane congestion then this is the way to go. The minimum fare is 10 AED but the price comes down if you book ahead.
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